Initially, Hegar claimed that the county was defunding Harris County Constable Ted Heap’s Precinct 5 office by cutting funding by $2.4 million in its 2023-2024 budget, without voter approval to do so, which would be a violation of state law.
However, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo claimed that Hegar had shortened the county’s pay period and fiscal year in 2022, which resulted in an incorrect annualized amount for that fiscal year.
Hegar’s decision comes after Harris County officials responded to his initial action by providing an analysis that showed the law enforcement funding increased as a part of the county’s total reduced budget, according to a press release from the Office of the Comptroller.
Despite the total budget for Constable Precinct 5 decreasing in FY2023, it did not decrease as a percentage of the overall reduced budget. This is a different standard that is used under Local Government Code Chapter 120 and does not violate the law, Hegar concluded.
Hegar is overturning his previous position just several weeks after Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee filed a lawsuit on behalf of the county against the comptroller.
“Harris County never adopted a budget that decreased the funding for law enforcement. The Comptroller is wrong. In fact, it’s precisely why he had to rescind his determination that the County defunded law enforcement,” said Menefee, in an emailed statement from the County Attorney’s Office to the Houston Press.
6:15 p.m. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued this statement:
“Thank you to Comptroller Hegar for withdrawing the lawsuit against Harris County after recognizing it was meritless. It’s not our job to explain the law or math to the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Texas, but that is what he had to do to stop state officials from bullying our communities. As a final reminder, Harris County has increased the budgets for law enforcement every year since I took office. This is true even though, sadly, we were not able to give planned raises to the tune of $100 million to our hard-working Harris County Sheriff’s Deputies, Constables’ Deputies, Assistant District Attorneys, or Detention Officers because two allies of Hegar boycotted our budget vote. Comptroller Hegar, like some other far-right officials, believe it’s good for their base to be anti-Harris County, but that doesn’t make their attacks less false or less offensive.”